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CARIBBEAN | Regional technocrat wants a refocus on drought mitigation

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Donavon Stanberry Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Donavon Stanberry
MONTREAL, Canada, Mar 8, CMC – A senior Jamaican government official is calling for greater focus to be given to the impact of drought on agriculture in the Caribbean.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry, is also calling for the revitalization of crop insurance for Caribbean farmers faced with the possibility of losses from natural disasters.

Stanberry, who is attending the fifth Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction here, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the sustainable growth and development of the agriculture sector in the region is constantly impeded by natural disasters.

“I think that for a long time we have been focusing on hurricanes in the Caribbean and really we have taken our eyes off drought mitigation. And in my view for agriculture, drought is a more serious threat to us than in fact hurricanes.

“After a hurricane you can get up the next morning and start producing again; the drought tends to be prolonged,” Stanberry said.

He acknowledged that limited financial resources are a factor in the irrigation process and suggested creative and innovative ways to overcome them including increased rainwater harvesting and the construction of micro dams on farms.

Stanberry said at the top of the agenda of the Ministry of Agriculture in Jamaica is the enhancement of irrigation coverage across the island, in a manner consistent with the country’s agricultural profile.

He said only seven per cent of irrigable land in Jamaica is currently irrigated and “that is a clear and present danger to sustainable production.

“The overwhelming majority of our farmers, particularly our smaller ones, really depend on rainfall; and with climate change we are seeing wide variation in rainfall patterns. We are seeing extremes; in some months we have too much rain and for the last three four years, you can almost bet your bottom dollar, that there is going to be a drought and the drought tends to be prolonged,” he added.

The major outcome of the conference here is expected to be an action plan that would be adopted by the countries of the Americas and Stanberry is concerned that so far there is no real commitment to some form of crop insurance for Caribbean farmers.

 “After the hurricanes of the last 10 (to) 15 years we have had difficulty to get reinsurers in Europe to take on the Caribbean because they are saying it’s so risky,” he told CMC.

Jamaica has approximately 220,000 farmers and Stanberry said “right now it is the government that has become the de facto insurer of last resort” for these farmers after a natural disaster.

He said Jamaica would like to see  “a structured system where, perhaps, the farmers can even make a contribution to the insurance premium…

“But you want to have the assurance that if there is a disaster, the following morning you can get up and start over without having the prolonged wait and the depression that comes with that,” he told CMC.

  • Countries: Jamaica